YEAR B: 23RD SUNDAY HOMILY IN ORDINARY TIME
THEME: HEALING FOR ALL
BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong, St Mary Magdalene Cath. Church, Omaha, USA.
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 5 2021
1. Disabilities. Mr Scott, had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the doctor and was given a powerful set of hearing aids that enabled him to hear almost perfectly. After 1 month, Mr Scott went back to the doctor for checkup and the doctor said, ‘Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.’ Mr Scott replied, ‘Oh, I haven`t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I’ve changed my will three times!’ According to the CDC, 61 million adults in the US live with a disability, that is, 26% of all adults. This percentage may not be too different from the rest of the world. However, based on all Scripture readings today, one can conclude that not only those with physical or mental disabilities but all of us, 100% of us, need healing. Those with hearing disability, like Mr Scott, and those who abuse the gift of hearing, we are all in need of healing. Those who cannot speak and those who abuse the gift of speech, like Mr Scott’s family, we are all in need of healing. God is using the obvious need of healing by the physically challenged, to invite all of us, to receive healing and salvation.
2. Healing. In the 1st reading, (Is 35:4-7a) we hear: “Here is your God…He comes to save you…Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.” In order to heal the rest of us from discriminating against those who are physically, mentally, or economically challenged, today’s 2nd reading (James 2:1-5) states clearly and with illustration: “My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” Each person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity irrespective of abilities or disabilities. In the Gospel reading (Mark 7:31-37), our Lord heals a man who was deaf and also had a speech impediment, which often happens with people who lose their hearing at an early age.
3. Healing for All. In the dramatic healing of the deaf and mute man, I see healing for all. First, the benevolent crowd did something: they acknowledged their inability to heal the man and so brought him to Jesus the Divine healer. They sought help for the man as we should even today. Of course, our Lord can heal by His words alone. But in this case, he touched the man’s ears and tongue in very personal ways that we may not fully understand on this side of Heaven. Some think our Lord was trying to make the man know what was about to happen, by touching his ears and tongue, since he could not hear or speak, so that somehow, the man could become part of the healing process. Whatever the case, our Lord healed the man and also healed the crowd for they said: “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Thanks to the healing of one mute man, the crowd was healed of the common illness of abuse of speech as they now praised God more than before. Thanks to the healing of one deaf man, the crowd could hear the Word of God about salvation, with greater clarity than before. Thanks to the healing of the man who could not speak, the rest of us are called to be healed of the abuse of speech; we are being given grace to overcome lies and gossip; to speak in care and not cynicism of others. We are to be the voice of the voiceless, including those not allowed to be born. Dear sisters and brothers, commenting on this miracle a nun once told me that our Lord inspired her to try to repeat the miracle for thousands of people. I asked her to explain.
She remarked: “Just as Jesus made the deaf to hear and the mute to speak, I learned the sign language and teach it to thousands of children in specials schools”. Of course, throughout history, relatives and friends have found ways of communicating with deaf mutes and people with special needs. St Francis de Sales has a special lesson for me and perhaps for you. St Francis de Sales, while Bishop of Geneva, back in the 17th Century, met a boy who was a deaf mute.
Francis went as far as inventing a sign language to communicate with the boy and teach him the Christian faith. The sign language he invented was so elaborate that the Martin the deaf mute could go to confession. No wonder St Francis de Sales is called Patron of the Deaf! I may not even know how to use the sign language, but dear Lord, I thank You for the gift of speech and hearing. Heal all of us and save us from abusing your many gifts. Amen.